Photo: Annette Batson
Montclair High School celebrated its 149th Commencement last night. The weather held up and graduates and their families were able to sit outside in the MHS amphitheater, where they listened to U.S. Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and Montclair resident Jeh Johnson give a moving commencement address, sharing his own early struggles and addressing the bottom 50 percent of the graduating class.
“You know who you are — I was one of you. In fact, I was probably in the bottom 10 percent. The only time my mother used a four letter word was when she saw my report card. When I got a C, it was time for a celebration,” said Johnson.
“Early on, I had no role model I was tuned out and didn’t care. I compared to others and always came up short,” Johnson revealed, referencing how he always saw friends who were doing things, like track, better than he was. Then he spoke about what helped.
“For one thing, graduates, my parents never gave up on me. My parents never discouraged any ambition I had, no matter how crazy. I eventually I heard them, it took a while, but eventually I did hear my parents after years and years,” Johnson said.
Johnson addressed the parents, too. “Parents, rest assured, eventually your kids do hear you. Eventually they embrace your values. Eventually they even start to sound like you and act like you.”
Johnson also gave a shout to WBGO, mentioning his love for classic R&B.
U.S. Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson gives commencement address. Photo: Annette Batson.
Following graduation, it was on to Project Graduation, with cheering crowds lining Montclair streets to catch a glimpse of the happy Class of 2016 off to their special secret party destination, which took place this year at MetLife Stadium.
Project Graduation leaves Montclair to cheers all over town. Photo: Jen Grisafi